Alaska governor suspends re-election bid

By Becky Bohrer | Associated Press

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker suspended his re-election bid Friday, three days after the sudden resignation of his lieutenant governor over what Walker described as an inappropriate overture toward a woman.

Walker’s announcement, made during the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in Anchorage, was met with gasps.

Walker, the only independent governor in the country, took swipes at Republican rival Mike Dunleavy and did not explicitly endorse Democrat Mark Begich. But he said Begich’s stand on important issues more closely aligned with Walker’s priorities.

Walker’s campaign was rocked Tuesday by the resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat who was replaced by former state health commissioner Valerie Davidson.

Throughout the campaign, some Democrats and independents worried that Walker and Begich would split the vote, giving the election to Dunleavy. Walker was elected in 2014 with Democratic support.

Walker campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn earlier this week said Walker and Begich had been in talks about a “path forward for Alaska” but would not elaborate. On Thursday, Begich and Walker had sought to downplay any suggestions of a potential deal between them ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

Mallott, in a resignation letter, apologized for “inappropriate comments I made that placed a person whom I respect and revere in a position of vulnerability.”

Walker spokesman Austin Baird said the incident that led to Mallott’s resignation happened Sunday. Walker said he learned of it Monday. Few details have been released because Walker said he is honoring the wishes of the woman involved.

The partnership of Walker and Mallott — and blurring of partisan lines — was a central theme of their administration and of their campaign. Walker said he considers Mallott his closest friend and “soul mate.”

In 2014, Walker and Mallott were each running for governor, trying to unseat Republican Gov. Sean Parnell. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

Saudi officials: Khashoggi died in fight in the consulate

By Tamer el-Ghobashy | Washington Post

ISTANBUL – The Saudi government acknowledged early Saturday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, saying he died during a fist fight.

The annoucement, which came in a tweet from the Saudi foreign ministry, said that an initial investigation by the government’s general prosecutor found that Khashoggi been in discussions with people inside the consulate when a quarrel broke out, escalating to a fatal fist fight.

The Saudi government said it had fired five top officials and arrested 18 other Saudis as a result of the initial investigation. Those fired included Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri.

The announcement marks the first time that Saudi officials have acknowledged that Kashoggi was killed inside the consulate. Ever since he disappeared on Oct. 2 while visiting the mission, Saudi officials have repeatedly said that he left the consulate alive and that they had no information about his whereabouts or fate.

Turkish investigators had concluded days ago that Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post was killed and dismembered by a Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul.

Earlier Friday, Turkish prosecutors questioned staff at the Saudi Consulate, state media said, suggesting attempts to strengthen a possible criminal case with insider details from the last place journalist Jamal Khashoggi was seen alive.

An undisclosed number consulate employees in Istanbul were interviewed by prosecutors, the semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported, a day after Turkish authorities began combing through wooded areas outside Istanbul in an apparent search for Khashoggi’s remains.

Turkish officials say that Khashoggi – a U.S. resident – was killed by a 15-member Saudi hit squad after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2.

The refocus on the consulate employees suggests that investigators are seeking to bolster a possible criminal case. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

Trump appointee resigns over hiring controversy

By Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – A top Trump administration political appointee who just two days ago was on track to lead the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office resigned Friday from the federal government, according to an administration official.

Suzanne Israel Tufts was scheduled to be interviewed Friday morning for another inspector general position elsewhere in the government, according to a person with knowledge of the interview. But she did not show up for the appointment.

Her departure ends a madcap week, as the administration quickly scuttled an arrangement to make Tufts acting Interior watchdog amid media reports and scrutiny from Capitol Hill lawmakers. Tufts did not respond to messages left on her cellphone.

Tufts, an attorney from Queens, New York, who worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign, was serving as assistant secretary for administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. She had not been at work for at least two months, according to three people with knowledge of her absence, but was still on the payroll.

Then last Friday, HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced to agency staff that Tufts would be assigned to Interior. Top White House officials then said they didn’t know about the plan. The apparent arrangement between the Interior Department and HUD raised questions about how and why a political appointee with no experience handling government investigations was chosen to lead such an active watchdog office.

Mary Kendall, who has served as Interior’s deputy inspector general for nine years but was not confirmed by the Senate to the top spot, is conducting at least four investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s conduct. Two of the probes center around the secretary’s involvement in a Montana land deal, and his role in blocking two Connecticut tribes’ application to open a casino.

Investigators recently issued two subpoenas …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

Oakland poll: Libby leads, homelessness biggest problem, crime concern dips

OAKLAND — A Chamber of Commerce poll released Friday shows Libby Schaaf leading the Oakland race for mayor and wide support for her warning residents about a immigration raid by federal authorities.

Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing are the first and second biggest problems facing Oakland, according to the chamber’s annual poll. Five hundred voters took part in the telephone survey conducted from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14.

In the mayor’s race, 50 percent of participants said if the election were held today they would vote for Mayor Schaaf, 17 percent for activist Cat Brooks and another 17 percent for civil rights attorney Pamela Price. None of other seven candidates came close.

The poll results did not account for rank choice voting, so in the event Schaaf does not receive a majority of first place votes, it’s unclear how numbers were shift once second and third place votes are tallied. Schaaf led among all ethnic groups, the poll showed, but Price has a strong base of African American voters.

Two-thirds of people surveyed strongly approved Schaaf’s February tip to the community that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement planned Bay Area immigration raids, while 15 percent somewhat approved. In Council District 5, an area with a large Hispanic population, 98 percent totally approved of her decision.

It was less popular in Washington D.C. President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for her to be prosecuted on obstruction of justice charges. Top ICE officials compared Schaaf to a “gang lookout” yelling “police.”

Overall, voters are evenly divided on whether the city is headed in the right or wrong direction, according to the poll. Top problems facing Oakland, in order, were homelessness, a lack of housing for middle-income families, homeless encampments, the cost of rent, displacement of long-term residents, the cost of living …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

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